Hot Data: Is the glass ceiling beginning to crack?

There are signs that women in schools are at last beginning to crack the glass ceiling. They vastly outnumber men in teaching: around two thirds of all teachers are women. In primary schools only 18 per cent are men.

And even in secondary there are now more women teachers than men (52 per cent). Despite this, women have always been outnumbered at senior levels. There is now evidence that, at least in primary schools there are more women than men headteachers. Indeed, today's female primary teacher has easier access to headship than ever.

Between 1992 and 1996 the Department for Education and Employment calculated that the number of male primary heads fell by 1,000 while the number of women heads rose by about 500. In a more recent survey of nearly 1,000 appointments to primary headship between September 1997 and July 1998, I found that women were almost three times as likely to have been appointed as men.

The percentage of women being appointed to primary deputy headships was even higher with men being appointed in little more than one in five of the cases.

In secondary schools, male heads are still the norm and there have been inroads into their dominant position during the past few years. In 1996 men accounted for 76 per cent of all secondary headships; little different from the 78 per cent of headships they held in 1992. My survey of appointments last year found very similar results with only 31 per cent of new secondary heads being women. There was less of a difference at the level of the deputy headship in secondary schools; here 44 per cent of new deputies were women.

John Howson is a fellow of Oxford Brookes University and runs an education research company. E-mail

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